James Boyle’s Ante-Post Value – The Haldon Gold Cup
No joy with Saturday’s JNWine Champion Chase preview but a cracking effort from Rocky Creek nonetheless, as Paul Nicholls’ charge ran as well as he has ever done to finish second. Sadly for all of us backers, Road To Riches was in a league of his own and made all to score so easily by a grand 11-lengths. A campaign geared towards the Cheltenham Gold Cup could await and it’ll be interesting to see how he’d fare. As for Rocky Creek, his sights will need to be lowered next time.
The Haldon Gold Cup over the extended 2m 1f at Exeter is a nice early race to have a look at this week and top of the betting is Balder Succes for Alan King. As a 6-year-old, one would be hopeful that we haven’t seen the best of him yet and since embarking on his chasing career this time last year, he has done little wrong. His jumping is generally sound, the way he can both travel and stay is impressive and it wouldn’t be a big shock were he to develop into a Champion Chase contender.
Some of his form reads quite well and given that this is a limited handicap, he will be getting a bit of weight from a couple of the main contenders, which will do no harm. However, he was beaten off level-weights by God’s Own at the Punchestown festival when last seen in May and now has to concede 7lbs to that rival, so whether he’s entitled to be 9/4 is a tad debatable. I suspect that he’ll be more forward than Tom George’s charge – who is likely to need the spin and will be aimed at other races down the stretch – but I wouldn’t be mad on playing the price. It’s tight.
Cue Card – winner of this race by 26-lengths a couple of years ago, albeit off 157 – is all set to make his return from injury and a big run wouldn’t surprise. He was last seen finishing second in the King George over ten months ago, however, and there’s a fair chance that Colin Tizzard will have left a bit on him for again. There’s also the issue of having top-weight off a mark of 172, the same as when he was beaten over 6-lengths into third in this race last year, and for him to win he’s going to have to be close to his very best. With the Betfair Chase at Haydock coming up in a matter of weeks, I highly doubt that he’ll be fully wound up (or indeed, anywhere close) and as such, 4/1 isn’t a price for me to get overly excited by.
Mick Channon’s Somersby has definite claims on last year’s win in this race but now that he’s 9lbs higher off 164, the handicapper may have him within his grips. On the other end of the scale, I think that Paul Nicholls should have a fairly well-treated performer in the shape of HINTERLAND (9/2) and he makes the most appeal for now. As a 6-year-old, I’m hopeful that we’re yet to see the best of him either and his rating of 152 (including the lb he’ll be out of the handicap) looks far from prohibitive, particularly on his defeat of Grandouet in the Grade 1 Henry VIII at Sandown last December. The runner-up has been a bitter disappointment since then but some horses were well seen off there and the form looks reasonable.
Balder Succes clearly didn’t run to his ability there and later turned the tables on Hinterland at Aintree, but Nicholls’ charge had unseated his jockey four-out (not his fault; was badly hampered) in the Champion Chase the time before and maybe he was gone over the top, somehow, following his preparation for that stern test. It’s really hard to know but the summer break will do no harm and he evidently runs well first time up. The track won’t faze him in my opinion and there could be a reasonable gallop on up top with Cue Card in the field, something that should help to settle him down. If he’s ready to do himself justice, he’ll have a good chance off a nothing weight and 9/2 is worthy of a small nibble.
Selection for the Haldon Gold Cup (2:15 Exeter; Tuesday, 4th November):
Hinterland – 1pt win @ 9/2, available with Bet365 & Betfair Sportsbook.
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